Christians Against Poverty

Many of us know the challenges of managing our money. No matter how great our income, the expenses seem to keep up. We may like the idea of budgeting, but living on a budget is another matter. As a result, we end up falling short and racking up debt.

Christians Against Poverty wants to help. At first glance, it sounds like a protest group or ministry for the poor. It’s actually for anyone who wants to learn how to better manage their money. Although it’s certainly a great fit for low-income areas, it’s also a great fit for middle-income people who want to budget, save, and spend wisely. According to their mission statement, "We are passionate about releasing people in our nation from a life sentence of debt, poverty and their causes. Working with the church we bring good news, hope and freedom.”

CAP works with churches to offer a CAP Money Course, which aims to empower people to give and save more, and to avoid the destructive effects of unmanageable debt. The course is simple. It begins with where you are financially, and helps you set financial goals, design a budget, and implement a system that helps you stick to the budget using a cash system. The course comes with a clear workbook, and is taught by trained volunteers. Participants in the course get access to an online budgeting tool. If you need additional help, you can access Internet and phone-based support directly from CAP.

Why should churches partner with CAP? Many in our congregations and communities are struggling with their finances. Helping them is part of discipleship, and it’s also a means of building relationships.

I heard of CAP through friends who took the course a year ago. They thought they were managing their finances well already. After taking and implementing the course, they were able to save enough money to take their entire family of five to Thailand (where my friend grew up as a missionary kid) using cash.

I recently took the course, and we plan on offering it through our church. If you live in the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, or Canada, then you should consider taking it too, or offering it at your church.

For more information, visit the Christians Against Poverty website.

Saturday Links

Links for your weekend reading:

Worship and Evangelism Are Not That Different

When worship is the outflow of your heart because you really love Jesus, and you want to thank him for all he is and all he’s done for you, then evangelism need not be any more complicated or difficult than letting others overhear something of that passion.

Cautions Against Bi-vocational Ministry

There are serious challenges to bi-vocational ministry that those who advocate for it as a strategy do not consider — or at least do not mention.

Three Marks of a Healthy Culture

Is there a dependence on God displayed in prayer? Is there laughter in your halls? Are new leaders being developed and deployed?

How to Lead a Team of Two to Five

So, you have a team. What do you do now? How do you get started leading your team?

Expositional Imposters

Below are a dozen pitfalls: five that don’t make the message of the passage the message of the sermon and thus abuse the text, five that fail to connect the text the congregation, and two that fail to recognize that preaching is ultimately God’s work.

You Aren’t as Smart as You Think You Are...So Manuscript Your Sermons

Allow me to give you four reasons why you should consider writing manuscripts as a part of your sermon preparation.

Arthur Dash (1950-2015)

I lost my most frequent commenter this week. More than that, I lost my brother — half-brother, to be precise, but really my brother.

Arthur Dash was born in 1950 in South Africa. When he was four years old, his mother died of pneumonia. Shortly after, his father remarried, but the marriage lasted only six months. When Arthur was nine, his father remarried again. When he was 17, his father kicked him out of the house, right around the time I was born to his step-mother.

Arthur had a hard life. For some years, we had no contact with him. He viewed himself as the black sheep of the family. I met him for the first time as a young adult in 1988, and we began to see him more frequently, along with his wife Patti.

Arthur was what you’d call a complicated personality. He had a deadly and shameless sense of humor, often at his own expense. He was kind and generous. He loved the Lord. But he also had his issues with churches, occasionally struggled with depression, and he was honest about his hurts and struggles.

Arthur with his father in 2006

Arthur with his father in 2006

In 2006, a month before our father’s death, he travelled to England to pay his respects. After the trip, he wrote:

All in all, I enjoyed the trip. I am much more at peace with myself and Dad, having had the opportunity to see him and tell him I love him. When we left him on Saturday, and I repeated that last statement, he actually said, "Me too!" 

Arthur was a frequent commenter on this blog. More recently, he would email his comments. When I moved from pastoring to church planting, he expressed surprise that I would “start a church from the ground up” and “be the jack of all trades.” But then he wrote:

It is God who gives us the desires of (in) our hearts, and He who calls us to travel the paths He has chosen for us. It is also God who made the maps and leads and guides us on our journey, and He who has promised to supply us the necessities along the way. All I can do is stand in the gap and support you as you follow the calling on your life.

He gave me this advice: “Just remember that your very survival in your new adventure depends on your dependency upon God, His Son, and The Holy Spirit.”

When we were going through a difficult period, we emailed him, along with other family members. Arthur replied:

I was up most of the night, thinking and praying. Maybe I have found my purpose after all? Even the marines need tactical support, you know! I may not be capable of front-line ministry, but I am capable of prayerful support of those who fight in the trenches!

He would regularly encourage me in our church planting efforts:

Bro., I wish I lived closer to you. This is the kind of church I would love to be a part of, at least judging by your Mission Statement.

I pray that you continue, successfully, to be weak and helpless, and to be the church that God has called you to be. 

His last email to me was characteristic of his humor. He described a recent fall in which he hit his head. When I told him I was sorry to hear this, he told me that he thought it was “hilarious” and that “At my age one no longer has any pride…And, no my head did not hurt. There would need to something in there for it to hurt.”

I was going to see Arthur this coming Saturday, but sadly, I’ll have to wait longer now. Arthur died in his sleep this past Tuesday, June 23.

He wrote this poem eleven days ago. “Not particularly good, but it's the best I could come up with during my personal worship,” he said.

I loved you because You first loved me.
Savior. Redeemer. You are everything to me.
My Fortress, my Banner. My hands towards heaven I raise.
My Healer. Provider. You are worthy of all praise.

I loved you because You first loved me.
You became a Man, and died upon a tree,
And conquered Death, Almighty God, 
Joint Heir, Son of Man, dare I make You Lord?

Yes, we loved You because you first loved us.
Upon a cross You were nailed and trussed.
A crown of thorns upon Your head.
You died that we may live instead.

Oh, What A Wonderful Savior!

Rebuilding Your Broken World

Back in the day, I was a big fan of Gordon MacDonald, author of Ordering Your Private World. I still remember the day that I heard that he had resigned due to a moral failure. I think I believed that only the bad guys did that sort of thing. It was the first time that I truly realized the good guys are susceptible too.

Sadly, it’s not unusual to hear heartbreaking stories of moral failure. MacDonald’s book Rebuilding Your Broken World, written years after his moral failure, helped shape my understanding around this issue.

The whole book is worth reading, but it may be useful to summarize some of the important lessons I learned. Here are some that stick out to me:

Broken worlds are common. “The Bible abounds with examples of men and women whose worlds crashed from self-inflicted causes, and their responses range within great extremes,” writes MacDonald. We shouldn't be surprised.

We’re all vulnerable. We need to confront three lies that we tell ourselves: Broken worlds are the exception, not the rule; a broken-world experience can never happen to me; and if my world breaks, then I can handle the results. We are all vulnerable, and the potential damage is greater than we can imagine.

We’re especially vulnerable when we think we aren’t. A German teenager landed an airplane in Red Square because the Soviets hadn’t prepared for the threat of a small plane. When we leave our hearts unguarded, we’re in severe danger.

We are especially vulnerable in the areas of our strengths. “The Bible characters never fell on their weak points but on their strong ones; unguarded strength is double weakness,” writes Oswald Chambers.

Secrets lead to death; repentance and truth-telling leads to life. Cover-up and self-deception keeps us in bondage until we are ready to name the evil and move towards repentance and healing. Churches can help people move from secrecy to light.

Take preventative steps. Adopt a repentant lifestyle. Practice spiritual disciplines. Cultivate key relationships. Resist the applause that belongs to Christ. Take time to have fun. Hold things loosely. Be filled with the Spirit of God.

Restoration is possible. “Either you believe in the capacity of Christ’s atonement to make you a new person, or you don’t. If you do, then start living like a forgiven person should live. And how is that done? By being a lot more quiet, humble, thankful, sensitive, and anxious to serve than you ever were before. Forgiven people basically live like that,” MacDonald says.

Restoration follows a process. For starters: be silent and withdraw; refuse to defend yourself; assume the ministry of the interior; walk through the pain rather than avoiding it.

Restoration requires others. “Ultimately, rebuilding broken worlds can never happen alone. It is a team effort, and it has to be accomplished in concert with those who can give grace and affirm progress,” says MacDonald. “The grace that helps to rebuild a broken world is something given: never deserved, never demanded, never self-induced.”

The lessons from this book have stuck with me for years. I've appreciated rereading them again this week. I pray we'll learn them well as those who walk with others who fail, and face the danger (or reality) of our own sins and failures.

Saturday Links

Links for your weekend reading:

How Exciting Should Our Sunday Meetings Be?

Should our meetings be exciting? Absolutely. But let’s make sure they’re exciting for the right reasons.

Living Well

Rev. Hann would be unnoticed today, one of those pastors who never quite ‘made’ it. But when he died at the age of 88, his parishioners placed a commemorative plaque in his honor of the wall of their little meeting house.

How Pastors Save Their People

As you preach and teach the word of God, people hear it, repent, believe, and are saved. This is the work of God, and He chooses to use you and me to do it.

12 Questions for a Six-Month Spiritual Checkup

Review the questions in this post to look at your life.

A Self-Pity Refresher

The following is a brief refresher on some of self-pity’s dangers.

6 Key Ways to Maximize Your Introverted Employees' Strengths

Use these strategies as a starting point for creating an introvert-friendly culture at your company.

A 4 Step, Simple Strategy To Have a Less Stress-Filled Life

I have tried this numerous times and God always responds to my humble attempt to surrender my fears, stress, and concerns to Him.